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Historical Fantasies: 1920s on

Historical fantasy is one of my favorite subgenres, an awesome melting pot of historical fiction and fantasy. I even have a separate page listing the ones I’ve read! This feature will run for a few months, showcasing the major time periods I’ve read in. Goal: have a spiffy, updated page by the end!

This month I’m looking at books set from the 1920s on. I’m including Among Others on here, because it was set in a specific time in the past, although I know that for the author and many readers that time is within memory.

Magic Most Deadly by E.L. Bates (England, 1920s, very enjoyable)

The Diviners by Libba Bray (America, 1920s, not my personal favorite)

Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore (based on Weimar Germany, recommended)

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge (England, 1920s, amazing and wonderful!)

Bad Luck Girl by Sarah Zettel (America, 1930s Dust Bowl, recommended)

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough (England, 1958, not my personal favorite)

Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox (based on New Zealand, 1959, highly recommended)

Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan (Ireland, 1970s, recommended)

Among Others by Jo Walton (UK, 1970s, SO WONDERFUL)

Are there any I’ve missed? Old favorites? I’d love to hear them.

By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

11 replies on “Historical Fantasies: 1920s on”

I don’t remember it being fantastical — the grandmother tells her story in the form of a fairy tale, but it turns out to be true. (Unless there was a magical element I’m not remembering, which wouldn’t surprise me.) Still a great/heartbreaking book, though!

Hmm, you’re probably both right. It’s been years since I read it and the summaries I was seeing online were a bit ambiguous.

You liked Mortal Fire? I really wanted to love it — it’s a combination of a lot of my favourite things! — but I couldn’t get any sense of the chemistry between the two main characters, and I got frustrated with some aspects of the plot. I feel like it’s something Maggie Stiefvater would have written really well, but Knox didn’t pull off. I think part of my disappointment was because I grew up in the area she based the mining valleys on, and it didn’t ring true to me. (Also, a sunny orchard surrounded by rainforest?? Okay, there’s magic involved, but stop shoehorning different parts of New Zealand together!)

But other parts of it I loved, especially Canny’s mother. Have you read anything by Karen Healey? She’s my favourite living local author at the moment.

It’s really interesting & helpful to hear your perspective from the local point of view! I loved the writing and while there were spots that I found frustrating, overall it was a positive reading experience for me. As I remember, Karyn at the SLJ Printz blog found it frustrating too, so I think it’s one that’s definitely flawed but different readers find more or less enjoyable.

I have read one book by Karen Healey, The Shattering, which creeped me out so much that I haven’t read anything else! It was really, really well written, but I still remember not wanting to turn the light out when I was done. But I’ve been meaning to try her more recent books.

The Shattering is probably my least favourite — I liked Guardian of the Dead and thought it had some similarities to The Changeover (Margaret Mahy), but it’s also a bit creepy. You could try her new series? When We Wake and While We Run are semi-retellings of Sleeping Beauty set in future Australia.

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